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Dying Fabric for Cloth Menstrual Pads

Batiki iliyotengenezwa kwa kipande cha nguo ya pamba na dawa ya blichi. Tie dye made using a pink cotton fabric and bleach. cloth menstrual pads

Mya and I have done a few little planning sessions in the past couple of days here in Tabora and went through the supplies I brought. She’d done some research for us into batiki dyes so we can create custom colourway batches that will help hide blood stains on the pads. The local shop sells powdered dyes and chemicals, and we’re trying to look for the best We want to take reds, browns and greens, purples and black/grey and try tie dye, batiki (batik dying) and “barafu” where we can use ice to make beautiful watercolour style patterns on cheap plain white cotton fabric.

Tie Dying Fabric for Cloth Menstrual Pads

We found some inexpensive pink cotton in the city centre and decided to buy a few metres.
pink cotton fabric for making cloth menstrual pads in Tanzania

Then we used the tie dye techniques I’d printed out in the UK to fold and tie it. Using a reverse-dye technique with bleach seemed like a great idea until we tried to buy bleach in the market! In the end we found a couple of bottles and tried it out. The first batch we watered down the bleach and the result was pretty (on the right), then the second piece was done with pure thin bleach and was more eye-catching even just half an hour later (left).

Batiki iliyotengenezwa kwa kipande cha nguo ya pamba na dawa ya blichi. Tie dye made using a pink cotton fabric and bleach. cloth menstrual pads
Batiki iliyotengenezwa kwa kipande cha nguo ya pamba na dawa ya blichi. Tie dye made using a pink cotton fabric and bleach. cloth menstrual pads

Next time we’ll try the bleach watered down a little to save it but we were really happy with the results. Next to try is the actual fabric dye, which we hope will work out even more cost-effective with undyed cotton. Perfect for tote bags and maybe even the pads.

Ice Dye Technique

A really great way to dye fabric is by laying ice over it and putting the dye on top. As the ice melts, the dye disperses across the fabric in different concentrations, giving beautiful results especially with two or more colours.

I wasn’t sure that we could get ice here in Tabora but Mya knows a few people with freezers and we could ask nicely at the hotels (there isn’t an awful lot of snow unless we want to hike up Kilimanjaro and I think that’s a bit of a stretch to dye some fabric!) I brought some plain white Minky style fabric too which we’ll test for wicking and absorbency to make sure it’s a good topper fabric for the pads and hopefully it will accept the dyes too. We have even discussed trying vegetable dyes which would be the most sustainable, least harmful alternative to chemicals and a great plastic-free, zero waste method. So in our small amount of internet time, drinking sodas at The Orion Hotel, I’ll be searching the web for vegetable dye techniques. If you have a little bit of experience with small batch fabric dying and would like a trip to help some of the teens in Tanzania make the most of their education and help the community here to generate an income and learn skills, and you’d love a few weeks in the sunshine then please get in touch – we’d love to host you!

To donate towards some fabrics to make washable cloth menstrual pads in Tanzania, please visit www.paypal.me/projectkidogo and give what you can. You can write “for buying fabric” and every penny you donate will be spent on cotton and towels to create pads, which we’ll distribute free of charge to schools and sell to generate income for some of Tabora’s most vulnerable residents. We don’t have any admin costs at the time of writing, as these are currently covered by our trustees.